Public Alert Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

Are the B-WARN and IPAWS systems Different Systems?

Yes.  Although they work together, they are different.  IPAWS sends out Wireless Emergency Alerts to any cell phone capable of receiving them when the phone is within the "danger area".  There is no sign up for IPAWS, but you must ensure you turn on the ability to receive these "Local Alerts" on your cell device within the settings.  B-WARN! is a system you must sign up for to receive the alerts.  With B-WARN!, more devices are alerted, such as a landline phone.  With B-WARN!, you enter in locations you want alerts for when those locations are in the "danger zone".  It does not matter if you or your device are in the danger zone with B-WARN!, if the locations you provide are in the "danger zone", it will alert you.   This is particularly helpful for vacation homes, kid's schools, or a family member's house that may need your help.

IF THIS IS A COUNTY SYSTEM, WHY DID I GET AN ALERT FROM THE STATE OR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?

IPAWS is a Federal Program and is shared by local and state alerting authorities.  If any of us send out an alert, all IPAWS end-users will get the alert in the same manner.  B-WARN! alerts are launched by the County; except with the instance of Weather Alerts.  Our B-WARN! system is tied directly into the NWS to automate the sending of weather alerts.  We will always include "the County of Berrien" in our message so you will know it is us. 

Testing Questions

When are systems Tested?

We test B-WARN! and the IPAWS Wireless Emergency Alerts on the First Friday of every month at about 3 PM to 4 PM.

Why did the testing change from Saturdays in 2020 to Fridays in 2021?

This was a change to make sure we had staff available on a weekday to troubleshoot any issues.  The former system was owned and maintained by a non-County contractor who was available on the weekend to provide service.  With these new systems, we needed additional County staff to maintain them and they were more available on a weekday.  We did have discussions related to lessening the impact of testing on the public during a normal workday for most, and so we selected 3PM at the target time for testing to try to avoid waking those who might be on night shifts as much as we could.  We know that we will never be able to accommodate everyone's schedule, but we are trying to do the best we can for as many people as we can.

Do I need to do anything different to receive a Test Alert?

Yes.  For IPAWS Wireless Emergency Alerts, testing alerts need to be turned on.  This process is sperate than turning on "real alerts".  These settings are often burred in a phone's programming.  We have some mobile carrier resources on the IPAWS page.  Their pages have instructions on how tests are turned on for different phones.  Due to the number of phones on the market, the phone carriers are best positioned to describe how each phone is enabled for WEA tests.

Why is there a setting for my phone to turn on "Real Alerts" that is different than "Test Alerts"?

Likely, device-makers wanted to give users full control over what type of alerts they will receive.  Some people do not want multiple testing alerts and want the ability to turn that off.  When you turn on the test alerts, you will get all of them, not just those sent by us.  You may get unscheduled tests from the State, Federal Government, or the phone carrier.  Some people may not want that number of tests, or they may not want them at times inconvenient to them, like a shift worker who is sleeping.  This allows those who want tests alerts turned off to still receive "real alerts".

What should I do if I don't get a test alert the first Friday of the month?

There are a number of reasons why one alerting method may not reach your device over another.  Each webpage listed in the left hand navigation box has descriptions of what could prevent an alert from getting to you.  It is for that reason that we encourage people to turn on and sign up for as many of these services as possible, including the use of a weather alert radio.  The steps one should take if they did not receive an alert are to review the webpage for that service to determine if there may be simple troubleshooting solutions you may take to ensure it isn't an ongoing issue; like making sure the device was powered on, the right settings are turned on, and that your device is capable of receiving the alert.  After doing those items, you may also report the outage to us at: http://www.bcsheriff.org/FormCenter/Emergency-Management-14/Public-Alert-Testing-Feedback-Form-152 and we may be able to give you more advice.

Why did I get an IPAWS Wireless Emergency Alert test at an unscheduled time?

We test the system routinely and that may sometimes cause us to test it at an unscheduled time.  We try to limit these unscheduled tests, but sometimes we need to verify maintenance activities didn't cause the system to go down.  We definitely do not want to send out unscheduled tests overnight, so be assured that if we do, it was urgent.  We synchronize one testing time a month to allow the public to know about one scheduled test each month.  This allows users to turn on the test function to their device on the day of the test and turn it off, if they want, after they receive it.  Some people like seeing multiple tests and choose to keep them on.  The State, Phone Carriers, and Federal government also send out tests of the system.  We will always include "the County of Berrien" in our message so you will know it is us.